Nicolas Maeterlinck

Flemish Government to pay 63 million euro to clear up PFOS pollution, 3M just 75,000 euro

The company that for many years used harmful PFOS chemicals at its plant in Zwijndrecht (Antwerp Province) and the publicly-owned company responsible for the construction of the Oosterweel Link signed a gentleman's agreement in 2018 that states that neither party will take the other to court about the pollution stemming from 3M’s Zwijndrecht plant.  

Under the agreement the Flemish Government must stump up 63 million euro to clean up the PFOS pollution uncovered during the work on the Oosterweel Link in Antwerp. 3M must pay just 75,000 euro. The figures are provisional and could rise depending on the extent of the pollution. News of the agreement first appeared in Tuesday’s edition of the daily ‘De Standaard and has since been confirmed by VRT News sources.

During excavation work for the Oosterweel Link in Antwerp high concentrations of PFOS were found in the soil. PFOS is a chemical that is water, fat and dirt repellent. PFOS is also poisonous and can cause cancer. The chemicals came from the 3M plant in Zwijndrecht until 2002.  High concentrations of PFOS have been found in a wide area around the factory.

On Monday it was decided that locals would no longer be able to eat eggs laid by their chickens or vegetables grown in their gardens. Studies have shown that there are high concentrations of PFOS elsewhere in Flanders.  

Gentleman's agreement

In the gentleman's agreement that has now been leaked 3M strongly denies that it is responsible for the pollution. Lantis disputes this, but to avoid long-drawn out legal proceedings an agreement was reached. This was beneficial to Landis as it would prevent yet more delays to the Oosterweel Link project, the Flemish Transport and Public Works Minister Lydia Peeters (liberal) told journalists. 

The 63 million euro to be spent by the Flemish Authorities will be used to seal off the most polluted ground with a protective coating and to instal a water purification facility. Meanwhile, the 75,000 euro to be spent by 3M will be used to construct a facility to store the most polluted soil safely. 

Ms Peeters says that the big difference in the amount payable by the tax-payer and that payable by 3M can be explained by the fact that 3M has been cleaning up polluted soil at and near to its plant for many years and the cost of clearing up the pollution in the soil will be met by them and not by Landis.

 

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